A Richer Customer Tapestry


I started my career in market and customer research as a data analyst. This was well before the day of drag and drop wisywig reporting tools; I was writing scripts and manually verifying outcomes. My early professional years were bathed in a very clinical approach to understanding our customers and our markets, one that reduced the rich voice of the respondent to black and white numbers on reams of cross tabs.

Clients today express to me frustration in catching the attention of their colleagues with their VoC results. I see the lack of traction their reports gain within their organizations and feel their dismay. They make their reports brighter and more colorful, they hone their storytelling skills and isolate the juiciest insights. Yet they are unable to get any more enthusiastic response from their audience than: Hmmm, interesting.

I suspect a reason the VoC reports, no matter how well distilled presented, fail to have impact is because they lack a human texture. The results feel clinical and detached from customer reality.  All that work to quantify the current state of the customer experience, to adhere to methodology guidelines and create an objective result, yields a dreadfully sterile outcome.

So what’s a customer intelligence practitioner to do?


Weaving a Human Picture of the Customer

Try adding a human element to your survey results and VoC reporting. Add some color to your facts and figures. Here are ways to begin.


Develop customer profiles (including case studies)

Leverage real-life examples of actual people you do business with: Who they are and why they use your products and services, how they do business with you. Be sure to take an honest look at both the good and the bad of the customer experience with your company; don’t just profile through a rose-colored lens. Feeling really bold? Build a profile of a disgruntled customer or even a former customer!

Design buyer personas

I think of customer personas as a greatest hits compilation illustrating a segment of your customer base. Your person has a name, a face, a place they call home, a job or vocation, all the traits and realities of a “real” person. B2C personas may include household makeup, income, age and political inclinations. B2B personas may include department, risk profile, employee tenure, tenure as a customer, and products in use.  Most importantly, personas include customer intent or the “why” behind their doing business with your company.

Get out from behind the laptop

There are many ways for both B2B and B2C companies to step into the world of the customers in ways that match your business model.

  • Visit your retail outlets, mystery shop, observe. Conduct front-line ride-alongs. This works on the call center floor or in their field with reps. Schedule an hour each day for a couple weeks to don a headset and shadow a call center rep. Head out into the field for a day with a field technician.
  • Meet with customers, employees and partners. In person or on the phone, depth interviews and simple person-to-person discussion with customers and associates can yield rich insights into the day-in-the life of clients and the people who serve them directly.

Finally, prepare your findings from these exercises and weave the content into the context of your customer intelligence reporting. Lead off with customer profiles instead of a summary of macro metrics. Illustrate your segment analysis with persona discussion. Emphasize customer care results by sharing the findings from a ride-along with a support desk rep. Have the courage to step out of the clinical and into the human with your Voice of Customer insights. Just as I discovered early in my career that I am not at my best in a dark backroom crunching bits and bytes, so you may discover your customer intelligence has more life when the customer is present in those results in living color.


Sarah Simon
By Sarah Simon

With over 20 years’ experience in customer experience, Sarah’s passion lies in operationalizing the Voice of Customer to drive outstanding customer experiences. Her specialties include VoC architecture, developing linkages to business performance, reduction of customer defection and analyzing customer feedback to tell the customer’s story. Her expertise in VoC survey design has combined with omni-channel customer listening to structure sophisticated, customer-friendly VoC programs. 

Currently, she serves as VoC Consulting Director at Confirmit, where she combines her industry thought-leadership with customized needs-analysis to architect new feedback initiatives and corresponding customer experience strategies. She also runs diagnostics on existing programs to optimize structure and function to yield significant business insights from mature programs.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter